Sri Lanka paceman Lakmal ruled out of Pakistan series

“Lakmal has sustained severe swelling above his left ankle following the second test against South Africa and unfortunately he is out of the series,” Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews told a pre-match news conference on Tuesday.

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The injury to Lakmal, who was named in the 15-man squad for the two-match series pending a late fitness test, comes at a unfortunate time as it coincides with the return of new ball partner Shaminda Eranga.

Eranga had eight stitches in the webbing of his right hand, an injury he sustained in the first test against South Africa at Galle three weeks ago and missed the rest of the series.

“Either Eranga or Suranga has been injured since the Bangladesh series (in February), so we haven’t have both of them together… which would have been a very formidable attack,” Mathews said.

“But I still have a good (pace) attack in Dhammika Prasad and Nuwan Pradeep.

“They’ve bowled pretty well in the recent past and the two spinners, Rangana Herath and Dilruwan Perera, have been bowling magnificently.

“I feel that I’ve got the bowling attack to take 20 wickets,” he added.

Following their maiden test series win in England in June, Sri Lanka lost the two-test home series against South Africa 1-0.

“In the second test against South Africa we were almost going to win it, unfortunately the weather gods had other ideas,” Mathews said.

“Pakistan has been a very hard team to beat wherever they play… we expect a bigger challenge from them definitely.

“They’ve got a very well balanced team and they’ve got some good batters, good spinners and good fast bowlers.

“It’s going to be a tough series for us.”

(Editing by John O’Brien)

China backlash after ‘mistress’ confession

Chinese internet users rose up in anger after the televised prostitution and gambling “confession” of a woman who embroiled the China Red Cross in scandal – but condemned the media, rather than her.

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Guo Meimei, now 23, triggered a wave of public ire in 2011 when she flaunted her wealth online and claimed she was the general manager of a firm called “Red Cross Commerce”, which web users took to mean she had received embezzled funds.

“Guo Meimei Baby”, as she is known online, posted photos of her opulent lifestyle to nearly two million followers on China’s Twitter-like Sina Weibo, posing in front of a Maserati or sipping a drink in business class on a plane.

The China Red Cross denied any ties to Guo, and the actress and singer later insisted that she had made up her job title.

Guo was detained last month on suspicion of illegal gambling during the football World Cup, and on Monday, state broadcaster CCTV aired her lengthy televised “confession”.

In it, clad in an orange prison vest, she acknowledged that she had helped organise a gambling ring and had “many times” engaged in sex for money.

“I made a very big mistake just to satisfy my vanity,” Guo said.

“I want to express my deep apologies to the Red Cross Society of China. And to the public and those in need of help, I feel even sorrier.”

State-run media also featured interviews with Guo’s former boyfriend, 42-year-old businessman Wang Jun, and her assistant.

Guo is only the latest suspect to be paraded on Chinese state television before going to trial, in what critics call politically motivated public shaming by the ruling Communist authorities.

Other instances include Chinese-American billionaire blogger Charles Xue, journalist Gao Yu and Peter Humphrey, the British founder of a Shanghai-based risk advisory company that did work for embattled pharmaceutical firm GSK.

Much of the online anger in the wake of the CCTV report was directed at China’s state media, rather than Guo.

Several users noted that in the hour after news of her formal arrest broke, the People’s Daily newspaper sent out 12 consecutive tweets about Guo, while CCTV sent out 10 and an official Xinhua news agency account posted 11.

During that time, none of the outlets posted about the two major news stories in the country: an earthquake in southwest China that has killed more than 400 people and a factory explosion in which 75 workers were killed.

“At a time of national crisis, why are our mainstream media focusing on (Guo) rather than on things of significance?” one Sina Weibo user wrote.

“Is Guo Meimei important to the People’s Daily?” wrote another. “Forget about the Yunnan quake, they’re still tweeting about a woman who made a few missteps in life.”

The US-based website China Digital Times, which tracks Beijing’s propaganda directives, posted what it said was a message from authorities telling media to promote Guo’s confession.

“All websites are kindly asked to prominently display Xinhua and CCTV coverage of Guo Meimei, and to actively organise and direct commentary,” read the message.

On its verified Sina Weibo account, the China Red Cross implored the public to “forget about Guo Meimei” and instead “redirect all of our limited resources and energy to the disaster zone”.

Some commentators argued that the assault on Guo would do little to restore the credibility of the organisation, which has faced accusations of misspent donations totalling tens of millions of yuan.

Gammy’s mum may face Thai charges

Thai medical authorities are threatening to take legal action against a 21-year old Thai woman at the centre of global debate over the alleged abandoning of a Down syndrome baby by an Australian couple.

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The Thai Ministry of Public Health says it is co-ordinating with other agencies in a crackdown against medical facilities and agencies linked to the commercial surrogacy the ministry calls “illegal”.

Thai reports said the ministry is also considering charges against the surrogate mother, Pattaramon Chanbua, a food stall seller from the southern province of Sri Racha.

The ministry says the fact that Ms Pattaramon received payment of $15,000 as the surrogate mother was in contravention of Thailand’s human trafficking laws.

The unnamed Australian couple, from Bunbury in Western Australia, had denied the charge of abandoning the boy child, returning to Australia with his healthy twin sister.

The couple have charged that Ms Pattaramon “misled” the world over the events that led to them leaving the baby behind in Thailand.

But on Tuesday the Thai woman denied these charges.

“I have never lied or hidden anything. The truth is the truth; it’s up to society to make their own judgment,” Ms Pattaramon told Agence France Press (AFP).

Seven-month-old baby, Gammy, is receiving treatment at a Bangkok hospital where the child is being treated for a congenital heart condition.

A spokesman for the hospital said the baby was now receiving specialist care and is “in safe hands”.

Initially the Australian couple told the Nine network they had no knowledge of the other child, but in a statement released Tuesday said they were told of the baby’s existence but that it had a congenital heart condition and was not expected to live.

The case has spurred widespread debate, putting Thailand under the spotlight because of its weak legal framework overseeing surrogacy and in vitro-fertilisation (IVF) laws.

Thai law firm, Chaniwat and Leeds, which says it will cover surrogacy and IVF cases on its website, warns of possible “complicated legal issues”.

“While surrogacy in Thailand is currently an option and a rapidly-growing area of medical innovation, there are a number of legal considerations prospective parents should consider,” the firm said.

The lawyers said Thailand currently has no laws or published case decisions directly relating to the practice of surrogacy, “and in essence surrogacy is neither legal nor illegal in Thailand”.

Agencies and health clinics openly engage in locating surrogate mothers and egg donors.

“Thailand’s Medical Council has taken a cautious approach to the practices of IVF implantation, egg donation, and surrogacy; these practices are still in a legal and medical ‘grey area’,” the firm said.

Investigations are now under way by Thailand’s Bureau of Sanatorium and Art in Healing under the Department of Health Service Support (HSS) into the surrogacy service clinics.

There are reported to be an estimated 20 surrogacy agencies, most said to be foreign owned drawing in an estimated 4.0 billion baht ($A133 million) annually.

Sweden battles raging forest fire

Swedish firefighters are battling a massive forest fire described as the worst in living memory which has engulfed homes, left one man dead and sent hundreds fleeing their homes.

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France and Italy were sending in specialised firefighting aircraft to help douse the fast-moving blaze ravaging a vast area in central Sweden.

More than 1000 people were evacuated from the hardest hit region around the town of Sala on Monday night, according to local media, and thousands more were put on alert on Tuesday to prepare to leave their homes at short notice.

Firefighters found one man burned to death on Tuesday on a small road near Sala, which lies around 170 kilometres northwest of Stockholm.

And a truck driver with a timber cargo was admitted to intensive care with severe burns when his vehicle was encircled by flames.

“It was thick with smoke and I heard the forest was blazing. They were water bombing just above where we live,” Tommy Persson, one of the evacuees, told Swedish news agency TT.

Hot, dry and windy weather – as well as difficulties in reaching remote parts of the forest – have made it particularly hard to control the blaze, according to Lars Gunnar Strandberg at the national emergency services agency MSB.

“On Monday night it was moving at a pace of 30 metres per minute,” he told public broadcaster Sveriges Radio, adding that the area has thousands of hectares of thick forest, often lacking natural barriers like wide roads or rivers.

About 100 volunteers helped firefighters as 13 helicopters struggled to navigate through thick smoke to drop water on the worst affected area, but the fire remained out of control after growing steadily over the course of five days.

The fire was estimated to be raging on an area covering about 100 to 150 square kilometres.

On Monday, Sala had the hottest temperatures in more than two decades at over 34 degrees Celsius with little prospect of rain in the coming days.

The emergency services agency said it will take several weeks to completely quench the fire and that it was considering burning sections of state-owned and private forests to cut off the progress of the blaze.

But first more water was needed to lower the temperature and allow firefighters better access.

Two Italian and two French firefighting aircraft are expected to arrive in the area on Tuesday.

The cause of the blaze is unknown but minor forest fires are common in Sweden in the summer months.

Xavi, architect of Spanish success, quits team

The Barcelona player represented his country 133 times, a record for an outfield player and only bettered by goalkeeper and captain Iker Casillas, and was a key figure in Spain’s glittering run when they won the 2010 World Cup and the 2008 and 2012 European Championships.

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Xavi had a disappointing 2013-14 season, when Barca failed to win major silverware for the first time in six years and holders Spain were knocked out of the World Cup in the group stage, and reports suggested he was poised to end his career in the Middle East or the United States.

However, he has decided to play on at club level under new coach and former team mate Luis Enrique but has called time on his international career before Spain begin their qualifying campaign for Euro 2016.

“I’m grateful for all those years,” Xavi told a news conference after a Barca training session.

“It has been a fantastic time. I’m not 20 any more, but I still have the motivation of a kid.”I was disappointed on two levels at the end of last season as I did not feel useful to Barca or to the national team.

“I would like to single out Luis Enrique, who has made me see that I can still be important.”

Xavi, who has won three Champions League crowns, seven La Liga titles and a host of other trophies with Barca, made his debut for Spain in a friendly against the Netherlands in November 2000.

He played in four World Cups and three European Championships and won 100 of his 133 matches for the Iberian nation, controlling play from a central position, regularly providing assists and also scoring the occasional goal.

His last appearance for Spain was a bitter 5-1 reverse to the Netherlands in their opening Group B match in Brazil in June.

He was dropped by coach Vicente del Bosque for their next game against Chile, which they also lost and were eliminated, and replaced by Atletico Madrid’s Koke, whom he has singled out as his natural successor.

“I would like to express my appreciation for a fantastic player,” Del Bosque said on Spain’s official website (南宁夜网.sefutbol广西桑拿,) after Xavi’s announcement.

“We are losing a unique player from the national team and it will be hard to find his equal,” he added.

“He has been a key figure in the team’s playing style which has brought us so much success. We will miss him both on and off the pitch.”

(Reporting by Ed Osmond and Iain Rogers, editing by Justin Palmer)